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Germany: Coconut oil controversy

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Half a coconut and coconut oil in a glass
Coconut oil has become the subject of a critical debate. © Shutterstock/Africa Studio

A professor from Germany described coconut oil as "the pure poison" and advised against its consumption. This has triggered a broad debate and international reports about the health benefits of this food, which has become increasingly popular in recent years. Suppliers of the oil in the specialist organic trade have put together arguments in favour of a moderate consumption of coconut oil.

On July 10th, the German University Hospital Freiburg presented a video of a public lecture by medical professor Karin Michels. In the video, she advised against the consumption of coconut oil because of its high content of saturated fatty acids and described it as "pure poison" and "less healthy than lard".

Source: YouTube/Universitätsklinikum Freiburg

With over 1.3 million clicks, their comments were broadly received. Even though, the professor apologized for the choice of words later. But the debate in the media continues diligently. The focus is on the thesis that a high consumption of saturated fatty acids increases the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood and thus also the risk of suffering a heart attack. The German Society for Nutrition also takes this position.

Producers raise their hands against Michels' statements

Rapunzel and Morgenland have published detailed comments for end customers. In line with Morgenland’s arguments Rapunzel states:

“We cannot confirm Prof. Michels' statement that there are no studies on the subject of coconut oil. To our knowledge, a number of studies have been carried out on this subject. Among other things, we were able to find human studies in which the effect of a diet with virgin coconut oil on disease-specific risk factors in adults with heart disease was investigated. According to this, there is evidence that coconut oil has positive health effects.

Although saturated fatty acids are often considered unhealthy, studies show that coconut oil can have a positive effect on metabolism. The high proportion of lauric acid - a medium-chain fatty acid that increases the "good" HDL fat - plays an important role here. To compare lard with coconut oil: Lard contains large amounts of arachidonic acid, which has a strong inflammatory effect and is associated with other degenerative diseases such as depression. In addition, lard naturally has a lot of cholesterol, the saturated fatty acids are in the sn-2 position in the molecule. This can cause a strong increase in total and LDL cholesterol. In vegetable oils, saturated fats only occur in sn-1 and sn-3 positions, which has a different effect on the cholesterol metabolism.”

Half a coconut, coconut oil in a glass, coconut oil in a wooden spoon
Coconut oil is often referred to as a so called superfood. © Shutterstock/HandmadePictures

In an e-mail, coconut oil producer Tropicai referred to an essay by nutritionist Ulrike Gonder, who dealt with the arguments already put forward against the consumption of coconut oil in 2016. Tropicai also cited scientist Dr Wolfgang Feil as well as Dr Bruce Fife of Coconut Research Center as a reference.

Allegedly no evidence of coconut oil as a "miracle cure"

Besides the alleged risk to the heart, Karin Michels also said that there were no human studies for the often claimed positive effects of coconut oil (from weight loss to the fight against Alzheimer's disease). To refute this, Morgenland, Ulrike Gonder and Wolfgang Feil list several studies. Although their results provide evidence of positive effects, there is no evidence for promoting coconut oil as a miracle cure.






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